Max Woosnam, former Manchester City player, cricketer and tennis star who won a title at Wimbledon - Manchester City FC

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Max Woosnam
Season 2011/12

City at Wimbledon: Max Woosnam

  • 17 June 2011 11:15
  • Posted by Peter Ferguson

Heard the one about the City skipper and centre-half who won a Wimbledon tennis title, made a century at Lord's, won Olympic gold and compiled a maximum 147 break at snooker?

It's no joke, and Charlie Chaplin certainly wasn't laughing when Max Woosnam, who would be hailed today as a sporting genius, beat the silent movie star at table tennis using a butter knife.

Woosnam, who could certainly lay claim to being the greatest sportsman of all time, also captained England to victory against Wales as an amateur - his only full cap in March, 1922.

Having made 144 not out against the MCC as a Winchester public schoolboy, Woosnam had already played briefly for Chelsea when he arrived in Manchester and signed for City in November, 1919.

A popular captain, although he missed the start of the 1921-22 season to play Davis Cup tennis for Britain, Woosnam made 93 appearances and scored five goals in his six seasons at City.

He would certainly have played more games but for a broken leg, but his footballing ability was just the tip of the iceberg for a man who rivalled the fictional Wilson in sporting prowess.

Despite being an amateur and a smoker, Woosnam, a Liverpool vicar's son born in 1892, was a natural at whatever he turned his hand to, from an early age playing golf off a scratch handicap.

Having won Olympic tennis gold and silver medals in Antwerp, he played a full 1920-21 season with City, making 35 appearances, then went to Wimbledon to win the 1921 men's doubles with Randolph Lycett.

For good measure, Woosnam also reached the mixed doubles final with Miss PL Howkins before sailing to America to captain Great Britain's team in the Davis Cup, where they made an early exit.

It was then that Chaplin, an Englishman abroad who much admired Woosnam's sporting ability, invited him to pass the time in Hollywood and their bizarre table tennis match took place.

Woosnam's City career was dealt a mortal blow when he broke his leg in the last match of the season at home to Newcastle in April 1922 and it took him almost a year to come back.

He played just once more, in the opening game of 1923-24, quitting after the 2-1 win over Sheffield United. He played Wimbledon and Davis Cup tennis for one more year. He died, aged 72, in July 1965.

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